Canaan Street was laid out in 1788 and was for a time part of the major turnpike from Portsmouth to Canada. This mile-long stretch became a major stop along the stage routes and the underground railway. Many historic homes here tell stories to those who are willing to explore and learn.
George Kimball House
46 Prospect Hill Road
Built around 1830, George Kimball purchased this house because it was close to the Noyes Academy and had a wing that was ideal for students to sleep in while they boarded.
The house was demolished during the summer of 2010.
Joseph Hough Harris lived in this house and began anti-slavery work here, using the house as a station on the underground railway. Fugitives from slavery traveled the Grafton Turnpike (now Canaan Street) on their way from Portsmouth, Salem or Boston toward Canada. The underground railway route roughly followed Route 4, with stations in Concord, the Canterbury, and then Canaan.
After John Harris married James Furber, they all lived in this house and worked together to make the house a frequent and welcoming stop. James Furber transported fugitives north from this house to the next station in Lyme about one=ce every two weeks.
Old North Church
The First Congregational Society had Bailey Welch build the church in 1828. It was dedicated in January, 1829. Mr. Welch fell from the steeple to the ground, but lived many years after. For this the town voted him $100 at its annual meeting in 1829. The church was paid for from the sale of the pews.
The incorporators reserved one section of pews in the gallery for black townspeople, for there were two black people in the town at the time. Nancy was a freed servant whom Mrs. George Kimball brought from Bremuda, and Dennison Wentworth, a black boy, lived with Mrs. Plastridge at the old “Dole Tavern.” Mr. Kimball chose to have Nancy join with the family in their pew. Dennison had become friends with other Canaan boys and had been considered about as good as any of them. He also declined to use the pew, and the pew never came into the use planned for it.
Originally plain, it was embellished about 1853. The church membership declined after 1860 and keeping a pastor became a problem. However the church retains its active status, having a service each summer.
Site of Noyes Academy
When it opened in the fall of 1834, it became the first upper level integrated coed school in the country.
Canaan Academy Building (1839)
The Canaan Museum is the starting point of the tour. It is open on Saturday afternoons during the summer months.
The museum is located in the Canaan Union Academy building, built in 1839 by Dr. Thomas Flanders for the Canaan Union Academy. It is a dignified late federal-era structure with an unusual two-story porch. Its open belfry is capped by a low pyramidal roof.
The Academy building was constructed to replace Noyes Academy (built in 1835) after it burned. It is not clear how much the new building deviated from the original building design.
Canaan Union Academy operated, with interruptions, until 1892. The Canaan Public Library moved into the building in 1904. The Canaan Historical Museum began sharing the space in 1961. The library moved to its own larger quarters in the early 1970s, so the Historical Society and Museum are now responsible for the entire building.
The Noyes Academy building was moved to this location from the North end of Canaan Street, There will be more about the original academy when you get to that location.
Old Meeting House
Construction was started in 1793, soon after Canaan Street was laid out. It was the location for meetings in town, including worship meetings for all denominations.
First known as "Broad Street," this early venture in town planning was laid out in 1788. About a mile in length and beautifully situated, the plan provided for an orderly arrangement of attractive homesteads.
The Lucerne (1831)
532 Canaan Street
This substantial Greek Revival house was built as a Hotel by George Harris for Joseph Weeks. It has a square-columned Doric portico and recessed gable pediment with heavy cornice.
The structure became Dole's Tavern at an early date. After 1890 it became known as the Hotel Lucerne or Lucerne Inn. In more recent years this distinctive building has served as:
• Canaan Street Lodge in the 1930s.
• The founding location of Cardigan Mountain School
• The dormitory building for Canaan College, 1955 - 1973
• The home of New Canaan Academy - before 1976 through at least 1999
Methodist Episcopal Church
The church house was built in 1843-44, with a blend of Federal and Greek Revival elements. The tower has an octagonal stage with a full entablature supported by pilasters. Above that is an unusual dome with simulated windows set into vertical sides.
The church was dedicated on the 2d day of October, 1844.
546 Canaan Street
During the Noyes Academy removal, members of the mob demanded that Currier provide a barrel of rum. Afterwards Currier reopened the school above the store for a short period.
Currier House (1814)
551 Canaan Street
Home of Nathaniel Currier, built in 1814 with an unusual two-story entrance porch. The home was used as an underground railway station. In 1834 Nathaniel Currier became a founder and trustee of the Noyes Academy.
Through the trees you can see a private residence, but this building was originally one of Canaan's schools. It was moved to this location from beside the Meeting House across Canaan Street.
Antiques on Canaan Street
570 Canaan St
Constructed in 1844
558 Canaan St
543 Canaan Street
The stone structure was originally constructed
539 Canaan Street
Constructed in 1843, the name came from the beautiful elm trees that were along the road here. You may still be able to find the depressions left as their root systems decayed.
Faith Baptist Church
526 Canaan Street
This open field was the location of the Cobb House, an inn and store. It housed a store and postoffice, and was a favorite vacation stop until the tourist visits to Canaan street ended in the 1940s.
Later it was used as a Canaan College dormitory. The college closed and the house was, unfortunately, torn down in 1975.
Canaan Street Cemetery
Here you are at one of the oldest cemeteries in Canaan. In 1803 the town meeting voted to fence this "burying ground" with "good wall or posts and boards spiked on."
Some of the oldest graves in Canaan are near the entrance gate. Look for Timothy Tilton's gravestone. He was an active Abolitionist, and took a prominent part in resisting the attacks on Noyes Academy. On his headstone was engraved “The Slave’s Friend” at his request.
Canaan Street Lake
The lake was originally known as Hart's Pond, and later as Crystal Lake. It covers 303 acres, and among its beautiful views is Cardigan Mountain to the east.
The maker is near the town beach, a good place to launch a kayak or canoe and explore this lovely small lake. The northern end has beautiful swamp area. To the south there are buoys to mark of the area used for the Town reservoir. boating is prohibited in this part of the lake.